USA – As his state continues to tackle the coronavirus, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is also preparing for wildfire season as summer approaches and temperatures rise.
ABC7 reports that Newsom will be aiming to add more than $85 million to the state’s firefighting budget. This comes after Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) filed for bankruptcy following mass lawsuits after their faulty power lines were allegedly linked to California’s deadliest wildfires in 2017 and 2018.
“You gotta walk and chew gum at the same time,” Newsom said last month in a conference at a fire station in El Dorado County, regarding both the global coronavirus pandemic and wildfire season. “We’re focused on coronavirus mitigation, trying to suppress the spread. At the same time we have to mitigate and suppress these fires.”An increase in funds would also help Newsom add an additional 600 firefighters to the force prior to wildfire season. A new Wildfire Safety Division at the Public Utilities Commission would also be instituted.
Currently, plans to have segregated evacuations for COVID-19 patients and those who are not infected are underway. ABC7 notes that this may mean residents in threatened areas will have to evacuate earlier than in the past.
While the coronavirus pandemic still raging in California has taken up the majority of public funds and resources, Newsom warns that it doesn’t mean California’s wildfires aren’t a threat.
“Just this last week, 246 wildfires have occurred here in the state of California,” Newsom reportedly said. “We just ran some numbers. From January to May 10 last year, we had 675 wildfires. From January to May 10 this year, we’ve had 1,130 wildfires.”
This comes as California’s government is currently in its Stage 2 of reopening its economy, where low-risk businesses, like restaurants and retail stores, can open, as well as essential travel, national parks and some manufacturing resume operations. Just recently opened in some counties — with modifications — are indoor dining, hair salons and real estate appointments.